Hx, a Novel Fluorescent, Minor Groove and Sequence Specific Recognition Element: Design, Synthesis, and DNA Binding Properties of p-Anisylbenzimidazole-imidazole/pyrrole-Containing Polyamides

Sameer Chavda, Hope College
Balaji Babu, Hope College
Toni Rice, Hope College
Hilary Mackay, Hope College
Lee Moses, Hope College

Article co-authored by 17 additional non-Hope College authors from three other institutions.


With the aim of incorporating a recognition element that acts as a fluorescent probe upon binding to DNA, three novel pyrrole (P) and imidazole (I)-containing polyamides were synthesized. The compounds contain a p-anisylbenzimidazolecarboxamido (Hx) moiety attached to a PP, IP, or PI unit, giving compounds HxPP (2), HxIP (3), and HxPI (4), respectively. These fluorescent hybrids were tested against their complementary nonfluorescent, non-formamido tetraamide counterparts, namely, PPPP (5), PPIP (6), and PPPI (7) (cognate sequences 5'-AAATTT-3', 5'-ATCGAT-3', and 5'-ACATGT-3', respectively). The binding affinities for both series of polyamides for their cognate and noncognate sequences were ascertained by surface plasmon resonance (SPR) studies, which revealed that the Fix-containing polyamides gave binding constants in the 10(6) M-1 range while little binding was observed for the noncognates. The binding data were further compared to the corresponding and previously reported formainido-triamides f-PPP (8), f-PIP (9), and f-PPI (10). DNase I footprinting studies provided additional evidence that the Fix moiety behaved similarly to two consecutive pyrroles (PP found in 5-7), which also behaved like a formamido-pyrrole (f-P) unit found in distamycin and many formamido-triamides, including 8-10. The biophysical characterization of polyamides 2-7 on their binding to the abovementioned DNA sequences was determined using thermal melts (Delta T-M), circular dichroism (CD), and isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) studies. Density functional calculations (B3LYP) provided a theoretical framework that explains the similarity between PP and Hx on the basis of molecular electrostatic surfaces and dipole moments. Furthermore, emission studies on polyamides 2 and 3 showed that upon excitation at 322 nm binding to their respective cognate sequences resulted in an increase in fluorescence at 370 nm. These low molecular weight polyamides show promise for use as probes for monitoring DNA recognition processes in cells.